The 2015 Acura RDX has won accolades for its solid build, luxurious interior and sleek good looks, but the RDX wasn't always in vogue. It was once considered unorthodox by compact-luxury-SUV standards, but it seems that Acura was ahead of the curve and now finds many competitors chasing to catch up. Ironically, Acura has jettisoned the RDX's 4-cylinder turbocharged engine in favor of a more traditional V6 just when many of its competitors have started moving to smaller, turbocharged 4-cylinder engines. What hasn't changed are the RDX's impressive luxury credentials, value, and reputation for longevity and reliability. Acura's smallest luxury crossover recently underwent a complete remake, which not only helped boost sales but also increased the RDX's overall resale value.

Competing with such heavyweights as the Lexus RX, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK and Audi Q5, the RDX has its work cut out. With styling similar to the popular MDX crossover, a long list of standard and available equipment, and a renewed commitment to its core audience, however, the 2015 Acura RDX shouldn't be overlooked.

What's New for 2015?

There are no major changes to the 2015 Acura RDX.

What We Like

Plush cabin, smooth power, quiet at highway speeds, slightly sporty edge

What We Don't

Pricey, missing some key features such as a panoramic sunroof and a blind spot monitoring system, no high-mileage hybrid or diesel option

How Much?

$35,790-$43,000

Fuel Economy

The 2015 Acura RDX is powered by a 273-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 teamed with a 6-speed automatic transmission. Acura's Active Cylinder Management system lets this engine run on six, four or three cylinders, depending on the need for power. The 6-speed automatic transmission goes about its business without notice, but if you are so inclined, you can shift gears yourself with the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles.

Fuel economy for the front-drive RDX is a modest 20 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, while the all-wheel-drive version earns 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Acura RDX comes in one trim with no stand-alone options.

The front-wheel-drive RDX ($35,790) includes a power moonroof, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors, auto on/off headlights, an 8-way power front driver's seat with power lumbar support, a 4-way power passenger seat, leather seat trim, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, keyless access with push-button starting, a tilt-telescopic steering column, a 360-watt 7-speaker sound system, Bluetooth, a rear backup camera and the Active Noise Control interior-noise cancellation system.

The RDX with the Technology package ($39,490) brings the AcuraLink satellite communications system, voice-activated navigation with real-time traffic and weather updates, SMS text messaging, GPS-linked climate control, and the ELS premium sound system with 410 watts, 10 speakers, DVD audio, Dolby Pro Logic II and 15 gigabytes of hard-drive music storage.

All-wheel drive adds another $1,400 to the bottom line of either version.

The GPS-linked, solar-sensing dual-zone climate control system seemed a bit gimmicky and didn't provide any noticeable benefit to cabin comfort. Credit goes to Acura for adding the automatic 3-flash turn-signal function for lane changes to the RDX. This is a handy feature that remains uncommon among Asian vehicles, although American and European brands have embraced it for some time now.

Safety

To be sure that the RDX achieves the highest possible safety scores, Acura has packed it with high-strength steel. In fact, 65 percent of the body is made of high-strength steel, compared with 47 percent in the previous generation. The result is a 24 percent improvement in torsional rigidity for an extra-strong body shell. Extra reinforcement was added to the rear and to the roof pillars with the aim of better scores in new government tests for rear-impact and roof strength. Knee bolsters under the dashboard help keep occupants in optimal position so that the numerous airbags and air curtains can do their jobs in the event of a crash.

In the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the 2015 Acura RDX performed near the top of its class, earning five out of five stars in the front-end and side-impact tests and four stars in the rollover test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also thinks highly of the RDX, handing it a Top Safety Pick rating.

Behind the Wheel

It's often a knock to say that a car feels bigger than it is because this usually implies that it feels clumsy and ponderous. In the case of the RDX, however, it means that the car has the steady smoothness you'd find in a bigger class of vehicle, such as the MDX. It's too often that small SUVs feel bouncy and rough, so this is a nice exception.

The taut, accurate steering provides uncommon feel and feedback for a luxury-class vehicle, especially one that isn't German. Acceleration from the V6 is quiet and strong, with the 6-speed automatic transmission gliding smoothly through its gears.

Lexus established itself as the player to beat in the premium-compact-SUV market with its slick, quiet, luxurious RX350. The RDX now enjoys all of those same attributes, so it should be very appealing to customers who want to be bathed in an atmosphere of luxury while driving a smaller SUV. The RDX adds the benefit of responsive handling and a communicative steering feel, so the driver not only feels coddled but also feels involved with the activity of driving rather than disconnected from it.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW X3 -- BMW has gone in the opposite direction, replacing a 6-cylinder engine with a turbocharged 4-cylinder. Because BMW is already on people's shopping lists, it is a risk that the brand can take, even though the new TwinPower turbo engine delivers exactly the same hp as that of the previous Acura RDX turbo.

Mercedes-Benz GLK -- The 2015 Mercedes GLK offers a higher quality of materials and a more sophisticated information and entertainment system. A fuel-sipper diesel is also an option.

Audi Q5 -- Audi has quickly made itself the understated favorite in many vehicle categories, and the Q5 certainly qualifies. It has the curb presence and visible quality to state its case.

AutoTrader's Advice

Although SUVs are thought of as 4-wheel-drive off-roaders, most of us do fine with the cheaper, more fuel-efficient front-wheel-drive versions, especially when they're equipped with modern traction and stability-control systems. It therefore makes sense to save money on the purchase and save gas during ownership by choosing the front-wheel-drive version. Unless you're all about premium audio and factory navigation, we'd say to skip the Technology package.

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